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The Ancestry of Ambrose University

April 6th, 2017 | in Education |    1   

The Ancestry of Ambrose University

Building a strong educational future

By: Sandy Ayer

Note: This article first appeared on page 10 in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of Alliance Connection magazine.

“We recommend the encouragement and expansion of regional…schools,” reads a motion adopted by the 1920 Annual Meeting of the C&MA. In response, A. W. Roffe, superintendent of the District of Canada*, urged the district to open a national training school in Toronto. By the summer of 1921, the District of Canada Committee had begun to lay plans.

Paul Rader, president of the C&MA, informed the committee that neither he nor the C&MA’s Board of Managers approved of the project, since Toronto already had a good Bible school (the Toronto Bible School [see sidebar]). Then, at its Annual Meeting of May 1922, the C&MA unexpectedly approved the project.

•	H.R. Pannabecker (registrar and treasurer) and E. Ralph Hooper (principal of CBI), c. 1925 H.R. Pannabecker (registrar and treasurer) and E. Ralph Hooper (principal of CBI), c. 1925

Walter M. Turnbull, dean of the C&MA’s flagship school, the Missionary Training Institute (Nyack, NY), advised the Committee to seek the blessing of Principal McNicol of Toronto Bible School, who later deemed the venture “a very wise and timely move.”

Planning then began in earnest, but the Committee was unable to find a principal for the school, and so its opening was delayed for another two years.

Finally, in May 1924, a board of governors was formed, with Walter Turnbull as chair. Turnbull’s brother, John, a C&MA missionary on furlough, agreed to serve as principal. That same month, the C&MA purchased land on which to build a 50’ x 50’ facility (which was to include “appropriate stairs for the sexes”).

Canadian Bible Institute (CBI) opened on September 15, 1924 with 29 students. Within weeks, another Canadian C&MA training school, Great West Bible Institute (GWBI), began educating leaders.

The following year, the principalship of CBI passed to E. Ralph Hooper, the former dean of the C&MA’s Boston Bible Training School. He ensured that the school’s curriculum followed that of the Missionary Training Institute, which had become all but inaccessible to Canadian students because the United States had recently implemented a more restrictive immigration policy.

CBI faculty and students 1927-28 CBI faculty and students 1927-28

Things went smoothly at the new school, and it turned out a steady stream of leaders (21 in 1928, 11 of whom were women) until July 1929, when the Board of Managers decided to close six of the C&MA’s nine training schools to offset a movement-wide decline in revenues.

All attempts to reopen CBI during the 1930s were quashed by the leadership of the C&MA. Finally, pastors Willis Brooks (a CBI alumnus) and George Blackett (a former board member) took matters into their own hands. In October 1941, with the blessing of Gordon Skitch, superintendent of the Western Canadian District, they “re-established” Canadian Bible Institute in Regina.

Convinced that the initiative would be rejected if they went through normal channels, they consulted neither the Eastern and Central Canadian District nor the board of managers. As a result, the school had to wait another four years for official recognition. It was also required to change its name to Western Canadian Bible Institute (WCBI).

In 1944, the Eastern and Central District received approval to establish a school in Toronto, but the project foundered for lack of leadership and proper facilities.

In 1956, WCBI (later, Canadian Bible College) was declared to be the national school for the C&MA in Canada. 

*Editor’s Note: Throughout the early years the C&MA in Canada was governed by the Alliance in the United States. An autonomous Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada came a giant step closer at the founding Assembly held in Winnipeg in June 1980. A constitution was adopted, a president elected, and a board of directors chosen in preparation for full Canadian autonomy on January 1, 1981.

Photos courtesy C&MA ArchivesThe first Alliance educational institution in Canada was actually the Toronto Missionary Training School. It was founded by Canadian Alliance patriarch John Salmon on October 16, 1893, but it only lasted a couple of years because of competition from Toronto Bible School (founded in 1894), which was better funded and had a broader appeal. Toronto Bible School is the institutional ancestor of Tyndale Seminary and Tyndale University College.

Photos courtesy C&MA Archives


Sandy Ayer

Sandy Ayer

Sandy Ayer is the Director of Library Services, Ambrose University and C&MA Archivist. 

more stories by Sandy Ayer
Tags: Ambrose, Canadian-Bible-Institute, education, magazine-spring-2017


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Genghis Chan
April 20th, 2017

C&MA truly has a rich heritage in missional training and Christian education. I just had an opportunity to visit the Alliance Bible Seminary in Hong Kong - a "sister school" in China founded by Alliance missionaries in 1899, later relocated to Hong Kong after the war. What a joy to see the visionary legacy continue in different parts of the world ...